Archive for May, 2011

As this is the Memorial Day weekend  in the US :

– a post from Alex Horton on the department of veteran affairs’ blog:

“Memorial Day is meant to remind folks of the sacrifice borne by those who fell in battle in defense of the country, as well as their families. But once you lose someone in combat, Memorial Day bleeds across the rest of the calendar. Chevy’s name is written across the steel bracelet I wear on my wrist, and it’s as indelible as any memory of him that I have. It would be unconscionable to keep his memory constrained to one day a year, and the same goes for the other men we lost.”

– Joshua Brown urges you to remember ;

Donate to the Navy Seal foundation and then enjoy the holiday.

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The death toll in Joplin, Missouri, has now topped 118, making Sunday’s catastrophe the single deadliest tornado recorded in the United States since record keeping began 60 years ago.

AP Photographer Charlie Riedel took a trip in a helicopter to capture images of Joplin’s devastated landscape from above.

The American Red Cross has set up a number of shelters in the area and is taking donations. Those interested in contributing can either text REDCROSS to 90999 (for a $10 donation) or visit the Red Cross website

Tornado-damaged Joplin, From Above – Alan Taylor – In Focus – The Atlantic.

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I love you more than the taste of your mouth, more that your look, more than your hands, more than your whole body, more and more and more and more than all my love for you will ever be able love and I sign Picasso.”

These are the last words you see as you leave an exhibition of works by Pablo Picasso inspired by his love of Marie-Thèrése Walter. But they do not truly capture the passion of the drawings, paintings and sculptures at the Gagosian Gallery in Chelsea.

The show begins with some photos of Marie-Therese and you then recognise her profile transformed in Picasso’s works in a countless ways.

A 45-year old Picasso encountered his muse when she was just 17 in Paris in 1927. He said:

 You have an interesting face. I would like to do your portrait. I have a feeling we will do great things together.

I fell in love with love with art when I went to see a Matisse exhibition and the paintings were so powerful they hit me with a physical force.

I felt the same sensation in the second gallery which contained two statues surrounded by four walls of stunning pictures – in particular it was heard to drag myself away from the trio of “Femme assise près de la fenêtre”, “Femme assise au conde appuyeé sue le genou” and “Femme nue dans un fauteuil rouge.”

As the exhibition literature says:

 She became the catalyst for some of his most exceptional work, from groundbreaking paintings to an inspired return to sculpture in the 1930s, according her an almost mythic stature and earning her immortality as an art historical subject. Yet her true identity remained a secret from even Picasso’s closest friends. Even after Marie-Thérèse bore their daughter Maya in 1935, Picasso would continue to divide his time between his professional life as the most famous artist in the world, and his secret family life, spending Thursdays and weekends with her and Maya and amassing a trove of love letters and snapshots exchanged while they were apart.

While it is inspiring to see that love can inspire such great art, at the same time it is heartbreaking to find that this love did not last.

Two months after their daughter Maya was born, Picasso attended a movie opening and met his new mistress – photographer Dora Maar.

Unable to go on living now that Picasso was dead, Marie-Thérèse took her own life in 1977, 50 years after they met. (Vanity Fair)

However , as the exhibition makes clear, her spirit lives on.

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As I spend my days writing about finance it was interesting to read this piece on money and the meaning of life :

“Being rich does not automatically lead to a rich life. There is a difference between money and success. To be totally engaged with all my functions, all my faculties, all my capacities in life — to me that would be success. ” (Harvard Business Review)

– Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg gave a commencement address at Barnard which included great advice on having a rich life, especially  for women :

What about the rat race in the first place?  Is it worthwhile?  Or are you just buying into someone else’s definition of success?  Only you can decide that, and you’ll have to decide it over and over and over.  But if you think it’s a rat race, before you drop out, take a deep breath.  Maybe you picked the wrong job. Try again.  And then try again.  Try until you find something that stirs your passion, a job that matters to you and matters to others.  It is the ultimate luxury to combine passion and contribution.  It’s also a very clear path to happiness.

– these travel photographers of the year have found their passion ;

these photographs made me want to take a trip across America (via @brainpicker) ;

– but while I an in New york The Guardian has a list of 10 of the best books set in the city but misses one of my faves, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer;

– the same paper also has 10 of the best books set in London – glad that Monica Ali’s Brick Lane made the cut but I would also have included White Teeth by Zadie Smith.

Have a good weekend.

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“I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In England’s green & pleasant Land”

The last verse of Jerusalem by Willam Blake

Last year I saw Mark Rylance give a virtuoso performance as Valere in La Bête when he came on stage and  launched into a 30 minute mesmerizing monologue.

In Jez Butterworth’s Jerusalem he manages to achieve the same thing without speaking a word. As Johnny “Rooster” Byron he emerges from the trailer where he lives after an all-night rave and with mesmerising physicality washes his face by doing a handstand and dipping his head into a trough of water. He then makes himself a liquid breakfast of eggs, alcohol, milk and drugs while gyrating to music.

As you can tell from his name, Johnny represents an Englishman – but one far removed from the usual image portrayed on American TV in either regency breeches or the landed gentry. Instead Rooster can only be a muscledound tatttoed drug-dealing bling-wearing swearing gentleman of the 21st century who fights for his own mythical vision of England against all forms of modern authority.

The play is set on St George’s Day, which happened to be the day when I went to see it. After many standing ovations, Rylance gave a great speech about how the English don’t celebrate St George’s Day because the flag and nationalism came to be associated with racism and fascism – but true Englishness does not mean any of these things.

Like Rooster, he is fighting for his own vision of England’s green and pleasant land.

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High Line

Although the High Line was opened as a park in 2009 it has taken me two years to get there.

The High Line was built in the 1930s, as part of a massive public-private infrastructure project called the West Side Improvement. It lifted freight traffic 30 feet in the air, removing dangerous trains from the streets of Manhattan’s largest industrial district. No trains have run on the High Line since 1980. Friends of the High Line, a community-based non-profit group, formed in 1999 when the historic structure was under threat of demolition.

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The one thing worth reading this week is Christopher Hitchens’ heartbreaking piece on cancer attacking his vocal cords:

“there must be a deep relationship with the word “chord”: the resonant vibration that can stir memory, produce music, evoke love, bring tears, move crowds to pity and mobs to passion. We may not be, as we used to boast, the only animals capable of speech. But we are the only ones who can deploy vocal communication for sheer pleasure and recreation, combining it with our two other boasts of reason and humor to produce higher syntheses. To lose this ability is to be deprived of an entire range of faculty: it is assuredly to die more than a little.”

– I usually don’t write about finance on my blog but this story can’t fail to grab you : the JP Morgan bankers leaping out of Black Hawk helicopters while hunting for Afghan gold (Fortune) ;

– switching to pictures, an amazing photo of four miles of demonstrators in Yemen (Daily Intel) ;

– and also of Southwest Iceland – a set on Flickr ;

– in moving images director Yuen Woo chooses his five favourite martial arts scenes (IFC) ;

Is a well-lived life worth anything ? (Umair Haque)

Where the pursuit of opulence is predicated on having more, bigger, cheaper, eudaimonia is a more nuanced, complex conception of a good life: it’s about whether or not the pursuit of mere stuff actually translates into living, working, and playing meaningfully better in human terms.

– in the same vein, Robert Krulwich gave some great advice in a commencement speech to Berkeley Journalism School’s Class of 2011 :

What you love can differ, but the love, once it comes, that feeling of waking up with a kind of eagerness, a crazy momentum that pushes you into your day, an excitement you realize you don’t ever want to go way… that’s important.

If you don’t have that feeling, maybe you’re lucky. You can lead a more sane life.  But if you do – I say congratulations. You have what it takes to begin.

I am lucky enough to love what I do but I also love my weekends. Have a good one.

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I have finally recovered from completing The Great Saunter on Saturday – the Shorewalkers 26th annual 32-mile walk around the rim of Manhattan.

Some photos from along the route. There are far more from the West side as that was far more scenic and we did that side first so I was far more tired on the East side.

We had perfect conditions for the walk – blue skies and Vivaldi on my ipod.

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My April 2011


The Hunger Games trilogy (Suzanne Collins) : intelligent young adult books which topically highlight the impact of war and violence on children

Money and Power: How Goldman Sachs Came to Rule The World (William Cohan): for those interested in finance, an absorbing 600+ pages on the investment bank

One of Our Thursdays is Missing (Jasper Fforde) : one of my friends bought me the latest Thursday Next book which is my favourite brand of literary quirkiness

The Eyre Affair (Jasper Fforde) : so then I had to go back and read the first one


Source Code (Duncan Jones): as original as Inception but with characters that you believe in and care about

The Princess of Montpensier (Bernard Tavernier) : typical French film in which every man falls in love with a beautiful, enigmatic woman in very low-cut dresses but this time set against the backdrop of the wars between Catholics and Protestants in 1562

Jane Eyre (Cary Fukunaga) : wasn’t going to see this but it was on at my local cinema while I was reading The Eyre Affair.  Visually atmospheric but not as emotionally stirring as my favourite version the BBC series with Toby Stephens and Ruth Wilson.


German Expressionism: The Graphic Impulse (MOMA) : have now seen this fab exhibition for  the third time and it was fascinating to learn that artists took their etching equipment with them while they served on the front during World War I


Jerusalem (Jez Butterworth) : thrilling theatre which displays a decidedly modern view of England.

I saw this play in the same week as the Royal Wedding and it reminded me that one of the things I love about England is that it can be both very modern and very traditional at the same time.

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“We had motor trouble it turned into a struggle,
Half way ‘cross Alabam,
And that ‘hound broke down and left us all stranded
In downtown Birmingham.”

Promised Land by Chuck Berry

I still find it amazing that President Obama was elected when it was only 50 years today that the US saw the first Freedom Rides. A mixed group of African-Africans and whites travelled from Washington DC in two buses to New Orleans to challenge segregation on interstate travel:

As the SNCC documents :

The group made it through Virginia and North Carolina without incident.

At the Greyhound bus station in Rock Hill, South Carolina, the group encountered violence. A mob of twenty attacked the group, and John Lewis was the first to be hit as he approached the white waiting room. Police eventually interfered and the group was allowed access to the white waiting room. The journey continued to Georgia. After leaving Atlanta, the Greyhound bus was stopped as it entered Alabama. A mob surrounded the bus, the tires were slashed, and the bus was set on fire. The bus was burned to the ground, but the group took another bus and continued the rides.

– to commemorate the anniversary NPR is replaying interviews with civil rights activist James Farmer Jr, one of the organisers of the 1961 Freedom Ride;

– and they also have an extract from historian Raymond Arsenault’s book Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice:

They were all lucky to be alive. Several members of the mob had pressed against the door screaming, “Burn them alive” and “Fry the goddamn niggers,” and the Freedom Riders had been all but doomed until an exploding fuel tank convinced the mob that the whole bus was about to explode. As the frightened whites retreated, Cowling pried open the door, allowing the rest of the choking passengers to escape. When Hank Thomas, the first Rider to exit the front of the bus, crawled away from the doorway, a white man rushed toward him and asked, “Are you all okay?” Before Thomas could answer, the man’s concerned look turned into a sneer as he struck the astonished student in the head with a baseball bat. Thomas fell to the ground and was barely conscious as the rest of the exiting Riders spilled out onto the grass.

Thank to you all the Freedom Riders for helping create such a different world.

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